Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search


Harper Lee sues agent. Who owns 'To Kill a Mockingbird' copyright? (+video)

Harper Lee sues: Calling Atticus Finch! Author Harper Lee is suing her agent over the copyright to her classic novel, 'To Kill a Mockingbird.' She alleges she was tricked into signing away rights to the book, first published in 1960.

By Staff writer / May 5, 2013

Actor Gregory Peck and 'To Kill a Mockingbird' author Harper Lee at the premiere of the movie in 1962. Ms. Lee is now suing her agent.

Courtesy of Universal Picture/Photofest/PBS

Enlarge

The author who created Atticus Finch could use a good attorney. So could her literary agent, whom Ms. Lee is now suing over copyright to her novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Skip to next paragraph

It sounds strange that such an issue would come up 53 years after the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, which features Mr. Finch as lawyer who fights for racial justice, was published.

But here’s what the 87-year-old author is alleging in a case filed Friday in a federal court in Manhattan. The lawsuit argues that the son-in-law of her long-time literary agent took advantage of her declining hearing and eyesight seven years ago to get her to assign the book's copyright to him and a company he controlled.

"The transfer of ownership of an author's copyright to her agent is incompatible with her agent's duty of loyalty; it is a gross example of self-dealing," the lawsuit says.

The former agent's son-in-law didn't immediately return a call seeking comment, the Associated Press reports.

The son-in-law, Samuel Pinkus, became involved with Lee after Eugene Winick – who had represented her as a literary agent since the book was published in 1960 – became ill about a decade ago.

The novel is Lee’s only book, but it has become a classic of modern American fiction, and its story a widely influential tale of moral courage and of race relations in the American South. Lee lives in Monroeville, Ala.

The film version of the story won three Academy Awards, including Best Actor (for Gregory Peck, playing Atticus Finch) and Best Adapted Screenplay (for Horton Foote).

"To Kill A Mockingbird" tells the story of two children growing up in a small Southern town. The book addresses racial injustice, as the children's father is selected to defend a black man wrongly accused of raping a white woman. The man is convicted despite his innocence.

Material from wire services was used in this story.

Permissions

  • Weekly review of global news and ideas
  • Balanced, insightful and trustworthy
  • Subscribe in print or digital

Special Offer

 

Doing Good

 

What happens when ordinary people decide to pay it forward? Extraordinary change...

Danny Bent poses at the starting line of the Boston Marathon in Hopkinton, Mass.

After the Boston Marathon bombings, Danny Bent took on a cross-country challenge

The athlete-adventurer co-founded a relay run called One Run for Boston that started in Los Angeles and ended at the marathon finish line to raise funds for victims.

 
 
Become a fan! Follow us! Google+ YouTube See our feeds!